We had booked our next car on the internet with Avis as we got stung by dollar rent a car over the phone last time. We were dubious about the price because the 'pay online' price compared to the 'pay on arrival' price, the option we chose, was double. But there was no problem and we left with a rather large Dodge Nitro 4wd for a mere £50 per day!
As tourists in San Francisco with a rented car we really had to do something before we could leave the city...the wiggly road!!!! Kris drove down the 8 bends with perfect precision, although maybe a little to fast for Emma's mum's nerves! I think she held her breath the whole way down!
We then headed out of the city and back on the open road driving down the coast. We got on Highway 1 at about exit 511! And exit 1 is down by LA so that gives you an idea how far we had to go.
We earmarked a place to have lunch in an old saloon in the 'town' (4 houses) of Pescadero. The saloon was disappointing and didn't have any reminisce of the 100 year old saloon that we had imagined. We instead lunched just up the road in a nice delhi.
We continued onto the Big Basin Redwoods state Park which contains the 'Big Red' trees. It was a little way off our route and they weren't as impressive as the Seqoau trees. Having said that the worlds tallest tree is a Big Red but that was north of San Francisco and not on our route. It was still cool to stand inside such a huge tree!
We then made our way to Santa Cruz. The name of the town is uber cool and has songs and snowboards named the same as well as appearing on TV and the big screen.
It was nice and sunny so we walked along the boardwalk which had a lot of rides along it, including an historic wooden rollercoaster that dates back to the 1920's. It looked pretty tame but back in the day, it was probably scary!
We saw (what Emma hoped was a mirage) a t-shirt on our walk that said 'Saint Kris'! We decided to investigate further as to why somebody had decided to name Kris a Saint. It was actually a surf shop but didn't stop Kris making references to it for the rest of the day! Thank you to Emmas parents for getting the t-shirt!
We continued onto Monteray which was a nice town on the coast. The sun was going down so we were running out of accommodation options, the first few prices we were quoted $200 per room per night for the equivalent of a b&b in Bognor! We found a Travelodge for a much more affordable price! With accommodation sorted we found an English pub that served fish and chips (accompanied by nutty Scottish waitress). In the morning we hit the coast road and saw a few seals playing before starting the '17 mile drive'. It started excellent with the road hugging the coast spotting seals, birds and a few sights. We later turned off and found ourselves driving through Carmel which had a lot of posh shops and restaurants, backed up by posh houses. Some of the houses had very unusual architecture. We also passed some amazing beaches that were fairly deserted.
We got back on the coast road and then stopped at Rocky Point restaurant. It has a good reputation as a place to spot whales but we were slightly out of season. For his reason and the view it was slightly expensive so just stopped for a cuppa and some Nachos.
The next section of the coast is called 'Big Sur'. It was an excellent drive, driving on cliff drops and over bridges. We stopped off at a waterfall that falls onto a beach. It was full flow but it was more like water coming out of a drain pipe! Also, the beach was created from a landslide about 30 years ago. The area also had the foundations of a house that use to be owned by millionaires. In the 60's the owner gave it to the national park on the condition that they destroy the house 3 years after!
The coastal road headed back to sea level when we came accross hundreds of Elephant Seals making a lot if noise on the beach. They were funny to watch for a while as they dragged their huge bodies around the beach while jostling for a sleeping position in the various huddles that had formed. Continuing south, we arrived at San Luis Obispo for a specific activity we had researched. We drove around for an hour trying to find it, and we almost gave up when we saw the sign for the drive in movie theatre. We arrived just in time as the film 'Hunger Games' was starting. It was so cool, they had a ramp so everyone in the car had a good view (including people in the back)! We tuned our in car radio to 107fm so we could hear the movie and turned it up loud so it was just like in the theatre! We got pizza and the whole experience was great and the film wasn't bad either. We could have stayed to watch another movie for the same price (really cheap about $15 per car) but we were too tired so hit the sack, after a beer and G&T of course!
The next morning we drove north to go back to Paso Robles which is one of the famous wine tasting areas in the region. We didnt have anything booked but quickly found out we could go tasting that day! We found the starting point but couldnt start as we hadn't any accommodation or had lunch. This was much to the dissapointment of our tour guild who wanted to start the tasting early! We got back as fast as humanly possible and were ready for our first session.
We tried some really nice wines including a red we all agreed we would buy. We were professional throughout although we didn't use the bucket once! We drove about 20 minutes out of town to stop at our first winery. We also managed to get a tour and the guy showed us around the facilities.
He said times were tough and he had been selling bottles for cost price which he said varies between $8-10. He makes his wine in barrels which are huge. There's 24-25 12 bottle cases in a barrel. He made a comment about Gallio wine. It is made chemically, not in barrels which means they can make it all the time as it doesn't need to age. He said he was waiting for the day when companies like that have to put ingredients on their labels because it wouldn't make pretty reading! He said they ferment with fish stones. Gallio does taste nice though and its widely available in UK. Anyway the wine tasting was great and the guys wife made little nibbles that blended perfectly with the wine and we ended up buying a bottle.
We went to two more wineries which were good but they weren't as enthusiastic as he first, and didn't provide nibbles! But that didn't matter one bit as we drove back to Paso Robles all feeling pretty drunk! An American couple were on the trip and suggested we all goto dinner. We went to 2 Irish bars had food in both and by the end we were all absolutely plastered, Emmas parents a little more so! Haha
Paso Robles was a nice small town and good stop if you like your wines, there are hundreds of vinyards.
We shook of our morning hangovers with breakfast and continued onto Los Angeles.
After a couple of hours we hit Santa Barbara. The place get weather thats warmer than anywhere in the area and as we got out of our car we could tell!
We headed to the pier which was interesting. Piers in England are filled with amusements food and drink. The majority of this pier however was taken over by a car park! Welcome to America where they don't walk anywhere! There was then only a couple of restaurants nestled amoungst the cars!
We took the tram to the town complete with a tramp called 'crazy' and his female friend who had a black eye, presumably received from crazy going well, crazy!
Santa Barbara is a posh looking town where people aren't afraid to show off in their flashy cars!
The next town we got to was Malibu where all the stars and rich people live. We looked out for Pammy's (Pamela Anderson) but missed her this time. There were ridiculous houses on the beach and in the hills all with ridiculous cars parked outside! The traffic continued to build as we got deeper into LA.
We have again seen another side to the USA. The coastal scenary was spectacular on this stretch of our trip which, with our detours inland, was 636 miles.
LA next blog!